Our parish is named for Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first American citizen canonized a saint and honored as the patroness of immigrants. She was born on July 15, 1850, in Sant’Angelo di Lodi, in the Province of Lombardy, Italy. St. Frances had a great desire to go to faraway places to care for the needs of the people. In 1880 she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. After meeting Pope Leo XIII, she was told not to go to the East (China) but to the West (America) to work with the Italian immigrants.
Mother Cabrini arrived in New York on March 31, 1889. Armed with her motto from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (4:13): “I have strength for everything through him who empowers me,” she began a work that was to sweep over the length and breadth of America, extending through South America and to Spain, France and England. Her work included the founding of schools, hospitals, nurseries and orphanages. She died on December 22, 1917, was beatified in 1938 and canonized on July 7, 1946. Her body rests beneath the altar in the chapel of Mother Cabrini High School, here in our city, Ft. Washington in Upper Manhattan. Mother Cabrini understood the magnitude of her mission and her determination and confidence that she was a tool God is using to spread his word. In her own words: “God has done it all: I have only been the spectator of God’s work.”
Our parish had its birth on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 21, 1963, the same day Paul VI was elected Pope. On June 28, founding Pastor Fr. Anthony Ryder and Fr. Charles Boccio moved into the rectory. On the 29th, in the chapel of the rectory basement, the first Masses were said in the newly formed parish. The official opening of the parish was celebrated on Sunday, July 7, with outdoor Masses to mark the 17th anniversary of the canonization of Mother Cabrini. Before the completion of the church by Christmas of 1966, Mass was celebrated in the Buick showroom on 16th Avenue, the Scarpaci Funeral Home and the Archbishop John Hughes Council of the Knights of Columbus. The renovation of the church took place in 1996 and included the relocation of the parish office to above the church, the construction of a tower to make the church more visible, and a wheelchair-accessible elevator.
On June 29, 2013, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Cabrini Parish, in the Year of Faith dedicated to celebrating the opening of the Second Vatican Council. We are a parish formed from this Council with a patroness who was a saint of the people. We are destined to be the Church as the “People of God.” We are called to be a living example of the fact that the Church is more than the people, the People of God, than the buildings and facilities built by the people. Our parish is a community of Christian people, whose faith, hope and love, whose sacramental life and whose common effort and energy constitute the Church in this particular place.